It's funny how things can change on a dime, including you. I'm sitting on the RER (which is kind of like the light-rail within Paris and a couple of suburbs) and I've never bothered to take it before because you have to burrow like a mole to get to it and it's just annoying. However, after I lost track of my internal compass today by circling through St. Germain and around the Jardin du Luxembourg, it became the best option to get home. When I began my afternoon jaunt, I was hoping to cut through the beautiful landscape and sculpture that resides within the gates of the famous garden, but they were closing them as soon as I entertained the thought. I knew where the bus stop was that would eventually drop me right in front of my building, but since it was so beautiful out, I decided to walk for a while. And, that I did. In a BIG circle. It is synonymous with the way I've dealt with my own life's journey thus far: Circling around the main issue hoping to float along and be carried in the right direction, eventually finding my way, only to learn I'm exactly where I began. I face the same decision to take the clear path before me or wander about some more. I am a fan of Ferdinand the Bull's philosophy to stop and smell the flowers, but I've mastered that technique well beyond my wildest dreams at this point.
(I've included the Disney cartoon adaptation below if you've never met Ferdinand or would just like a trip down memory lane).
I moved to Paris for a number of reasons. The biggest being that I became so comfortable and complacent with life in New York that I forgot what I was doing there in the first place. Neverland really does make you forget when you're focused on nothing but the pleasures of daily life. I became a girl with circles of friends all over the New York Metropolitan area. I could get into the best clubs, with the hottest parties and VIP treatment on the other side of the red velvet rope without paying a cent. If I preferred a decadent meal with great wine, there were tons of restaurants where I was a regular patron and would be sent specialties complements of the owner, chef, sommelier or bartender. Live music and dancing were never a problem to stumble upon, or if it was an off night I might abuse some unsuspecting gentleman's pocketbook to amuse my fancies. I enjoyed every spoiled rotten moment I had in that city of sin and wouldn't take it back for anything. What was the most fortunate treasure to obtain above all else, were the friendships that have become the cornerstone of my existence there. Hardly any of them were involved in opera and on the one hand that really kept me sane. On the other, it was very easy for me to lose focus by trying to be the best friend I could to as many people as possible. It allowed me a strange safety net of spending my time, love and energy on all of them instead of myself. As much as they support and encourage me, none of them are going to stop their life to do the work involved in honing my craft. As I've struggled to deal with myself these past few months I am remembering that part of the relief to move somewhere I would have no solid network of support to coddle me through life's difficulties, was a huge part of this decision. I had to leave my friends behind. It was time to take all of this potential I'm made of and finally do something about it. People keep asking me if I've made friends, or gone out, or seen the sights and it's hard to make them understand that that isn't the reason I am here. I don't even have a cell phone, and I admit that I'm really starting to like it. Sure there are plenty of ways to distract myself and smell the flowers some more, but that doesn't sound as exciting as the rewards of hard work, determination and a strong sense of self.
I woke today with a different perspective. The problems before me that I've written about are not easy for anyone to face, but somewhere along the way I forgot that I knew how to fight. I am naturally stubborn, defiant, and aggressive to the point of madness when I can't have something I want. Ask my mother what it was like when I was told the word "no" as a little girl. The other party would be met with an infallible persistence that always ended in their surrender. I would regularly break rules if they weren't to my liking, and especially if they were illogical. One of my favorite memories as a child is from pre-school. I attended a school where my mother taught for a short time, but in a separate class. On her first day I was so excited that I would get to see my mom during school hours that I had a plan all worked out in my mind. When it came to the nap time portion of the day I would simply explain to my teachers that I hadn't taken naps since I turned two (I was now four) and that since all of the other children would be asleep, I should take this opportunity to visit with my mother in the room next door. It seemed a very rational request to me and there should be no reason they would choose to dispute such a coherent argument. However, I was in fact met with some opposition. First began a few moments of arguing, then I began to get upset (and pointed out the fact they had made me so) and proceeded to inform them that if they were to deny me a visit with my mother I would surely vomit all over the floor. Most people do not believe the idle threats of children, but I was no ordinary child. Projectile vomit had been a reactionary barometer for me since birth, and this occasion would be no different. After a few more moments of hysterics, I delivered on the promise and hurled my peanut butter and jelly all over their shoes. They would believe me now, wouldn't they. Needless to say, I was very quickly escorted to my mother.
Somewhere along the way I started to obey the rules and to believe people when they said, "no, you can't do it that way, it's just not done" or "the world doesn't work like that." I began to take their advice in so deeply as my own ideals that it became the food which fed the hungry beast of doubt living inside me. Where was that little girl who used to look "NO!" in the face, stick out her tongue and flip it the proverbial bird with her unparalleled relentlessness? The thing that made me such a difficult child is the thing my parents have said they admire most in me. Well, crap! How's that for switching on the light bulb?
This morning I recognized my opposition as a force that will always be there to trick me into believing that "NO" is my only option. That by entertaining the fear of never reaching my goals, I give power to my enemy instead of remembering to fight tooth and nail until I've torn that bastard to bits.
(photo by Jill Greenberg)